Chapter 4: A Futile Chore
Footnote: The Image Barrier
The ancients worshipped the graven image to whom they prayed daily for their food and protection. Peasants lived in fear of the noble coat of arms. Today, their descendants worship the corporate logo. It is their new god in whom they trust implicitly and exclusively to supply their needs of life.
In Whom We Trust
People only trust those they know. They will only employ or buy from those they trust or from those recommended by those they trust. In the
anthropological communities of the pre-industrial world, the individual was an integrated part of his community in every facet of life. The reputation of each was emblazoned upon the minds of all. Each knew and could trust the other. Credibility was universal and life-long. Industrial Capitalism destroys community. It isolates each from his neighbour. It forces each to specialise in one narrow skill. It severs the work-place from the home. One works with colleagues not family and friends. Navvies work with navvies. Nerds work with nerds. But each lives in the same geometric suburbia with neighbours who culturally are strangers. As a result, common man knows not his own peers. Consequently he does not trust them.
spin-machines of free-market mass-media advertising continually bombard the common mind with endless indoctrination on the trustworthiness of vast corporates and their products. These self-made idols of capitalism thus establish themselves as the exclusive members of a new kind of anthropological community. It is a global village of trusted peers of which common man is made to feel a part. He therefore comes to trust implicitly every corporate citizen of his global village. But it is only a one-way trust. This is because mass-media advertising is a one-way channel. Common man cannot afford it. His voice is never heard. He remains unknown, not only to his corporate idols, but also to his own peers. The common individual is therefore naturally trusted by nobody.
The ancient artisan served his immediate community. Each individual therein knew him personally as one of a small number of trusted suppliers. That once-parochial market has long since been laid open to the world. However, though the market has expanded in size beyond imagination, the number of trusted suppliers within it has not. Within the mind of each individual, the number of trusted suppliers stays very much the same. This number is constrained by what is thought to be a
physiological limitation within the human mind.
Of course the small set of suppliers trusted by each individual on Earth could be different. This would allow a vast number of suppliers to coexist in the world as a whole. However, the recent rapid advance in communications has caused all our once-separate parochial markets to coalesce into a single integrated global market. This has placed all the world's suppliers of each commodity into a contiguous economic domain. In this situation, market forces compel all competing suppliers eventually to coalesce into a small number of large multinational corporations, or die. The corporate population of the global economic village thus gravitates inevitably towards the numerical limit which can be accommodated within the mind of a single generic individual.
The global village thus only has room for a certain small number of 'citizens'. As the size of the market increases, so too then must the size of each trusted supplier.
In Whom We Don't
Through the relentless indoctrination of highly orchestrated mass-media advertising, the corporates have successfully discredited common man as a worthy and trusted artisan. The upshot is that as far as the free market is concerned the common individual is ipso facto a 'cowboy' of his trade. He is thus left no option for economic survival but to kneel before the corporate throne and entreat he who sits thereon to condescend to grant him the undeserved privilege of paid employment.
Naturally, any such employment will be granted strictly under the terms and conditions dictated by the corporate. And since they are all operating within the same contiguous economic domain, their terms and conditions of employment tend to gravitate towards the same one-sided format. The individual's option is therefore merely to accept them and eat, or reject them and starve. But not everybody is able to meet these generic terms and conditions of employment. Many are prevented from doing so by circumstances they can neither control nor influence. They have no choice but to seek a living as best they can directly from the free market as self-employed artisans or traders. I am one of these.
As a lone artisan I find myself trading in the same global domain as the corporates. However, I cannot become a citizen of their global village. I do not have the capital necessary to buy world-class corporate advertising. Therefore I cannot make my voice heard above the mêlée of the global market. Consequently I am unable to create a commercial image of myself before which my market will bow down and worship.
I cannot afford the prestigious concrete and smoked glass office tower. I cannot afford the model girl receptionists with leather settees and rubber plants in the lobby. I only have a small room at home. I cannot afford an executive car to project an image of success when I visit clients. The Enterprise Initiative consultant in 1988 told me that my old car did not present an appropriate image for the kind of work I did and therefore undoubtedly had a very adverse effect on my business. But without capital I cannot change this.
So I am not trusted. I am by default seen as a 'cowboy' of my trade. I must survive by picking up the crumbs. Providing emergency capacity during peak loads when regular staff cannot cope. Picking up odd jobs which are too small, too uninteresting and too unprofitable for the corporates to be bothered with. But such is not living. It is barely surviving. The lone artisan is the first to suffer at the onset of recession and the last to recover when recession eventually recedes. And if, as I have, one falls off the tight rope into the rut of State welfare, one becomes permanently locked out.
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©May 1998 Robert John Morton